Using Nginx and AWS to proxy sub-domains

I had been thinking on ways to use free cloud services to handle a decent amount of traffic at no cost (or perhaps low cost).

I have a co-worker that's using three free Heroku accounts to serve as a backend for his iPhone application, which using a random number generator, randomly connects to one of the three servers, thus allowing him to serve three connections per second, instead of the free account limit of one. (Brillant!)

I got to thinking, how would I do something like this if it were a web application? Well, how about using a free (for the first year at least) AWS micro image to run Nginx as a proxy or load balancer?

Step 1: Set up your end point

This is a variable. Say you wanted to point to a Tumblr Blog - But this is just an example. You could pretty much use anything, a free Heroku app, another AWS image, your desktop with DynDNS setup, etc., etc., etc.

Step 2: Setup AWS with Nginx

  1. Create an account at
  2. Spool up a new Ubuntu image.
  3. Ensure that security group allows HTTP and SSH.
  4. Under "Elastic IPs", click "Allocate New Address" and assign it to your image.
  5. Connect to your image and install nginx: 1.1. sudo apt-get update 1.1. sudo apt-get install nginx
  6. Configure your proxy(ies):

     $ sudo cat /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/blog
     server {
       location / {
     $ sudo ls -al /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/blog 
     lrwxrwxrwx 1 root root 23 2012-03-18 00:23 /etc/nginx/sites-enabled/blog 
                         -> ../sites-available/blog
  7. Start Nginx with: sudo nginx

Step 3: Setup your sub-domain.

I use Domain Monger, which is pretty simple. You create a DNSPlus CNAME, point the sub-domain ( in this case) to the ElasticIP that you've created with the AWS console above.

Using Nginx as a Load Balancer

The whole purpose of this idea was to load balance other applications. I realize I'm not doing that above (of course), but the same principals apply only using Nginx's LB config instead of proxy. See:

Published on in Nginx